No places guaranteed - Joel

JOEL Tomkins reckons the intense competition for second-row spots at Wigan will drive him to even bigger and better things in 2011.

The imposing second-rower enjoyed a stunning 2010 and played a key role in their Grand Final assault.

Warriors’ joint-third top try-scorer with 13, he also made his England debut in the mid-season Test against France and kept his place in the national team for the Four Nations.

But he is fully aware that no player’s place at Wigan is guaranteed and the second-row department is the most congested, with competition for places cranked up another notch ahead of Super League XVI.

The presence of Harrison Hansen, the return of Lee Mossop from injury, the emergence of Chris Tuson and Liam Farrell, the signing of Australian international Ryan Hoffman and the expected return of Gareth Hock in June will make the battle among the forwards as fierce as ever.

But Tomkins said: “Everyone loves the competition for places, it’s what makes you into a better player. Everyone is on their toes.

“The back row is probably our strongest area and with Hoff coming in, and lads like Tuse, Mossop and Faz doing so well last year, Madge knows he has options.

“I’m sure there’ll be disappointed lads throughout the year.

“But we also know that injuries are part of the game and the good thing is that as well as the competition, we’ve also got the strength in the squad so that when lads do suffer injuries, there are other players there who can step in and do the job and the team isn’t really affected.”

Tomkins – preparing for his seventh season in the first-team – says the fierce competition coupled with the memories of their Grand Final have driven training to “a different level.”

“People are still buzzing from the Grand Final, and that’s why training is going so well,” he says.

“We’ve all kicked on from this time last year – it’s gone to a different level.”

Tomkins has been impressed with the way Hoffman and his fellow signings from Melbourne, Jeff Lima and Brett Finch, have settled into Wigan life.

“They are going well,” he says. “I think the set-up here and at Melbourne are pretty similar and they’ve slotted in fine.

“They’ve come over with big reputations but they realise they’ve joined a Grand Final-winning team, so they know that they will have to work hard to get in the team, and that’s what they’re doing.”